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About Greece

Greece is a country in eastern Southern Europe on the Balkan peninsula, with extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It shares borders in the north with Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

It has an ancient culture that has had a significant influence on the arts, language, philosophy, politics, and sports of western society, including the genres of comedy and drama, western alphabets, Platonic ideals and the Scratic method, democracies and republics, and the Olympics. Furthermore it's a geographically appealing place to visit, with a mountainous mainland and idyllic island beaches.


  • Western Thrace (Alexandroupolis)
  • Macedonia (Thessaloniki, Mount Olympus)
  • Thessaly (Larisa, Volos)
  • Epirus (Ioannina, Igoumenitsa)
  • Ionian Islands
  • West Greece (Patra)
  • Central Greece
  • Peloponnese (Corinth, Sparta)
  • Attica (Athens)
  • Crete (Heraklion)
  • South Aegean Islands (Rhodes, Naxos)
  • North Aegean Islands (Lesbos, Samos)


Major cities include:

  • Athens - the capital city
  • Heraklion - Crete's largest city and main hub
  • Patra
  • Thessaloniki - the country's second largest city
  • Volos


Despite its small size, Greece has a varied climate.

Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California. Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November. The remainder of the year is characterized by a relatively cold, rainy period which generally starts sometime in November and lasts until late March or early April. Sporadic rains do occur during the dry season, but they tend to be rare, quick showers. The country's Ionian Coast and Ionian Islands tend to receive more annual precipitation than the rest of the country. The islands in the southern Aegean and parts of the southeastern mainland are the driest areas of the country.

The most pleasant weather occurs in May-June and September-October. The warmest time of the year starts in mid-July and generally lasts until mid-August, when the annual meltémi winds from the north cool the country. Mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to get very strong; during this time, most Greeks avoid heavy physical activity outdoors between 1:00 and 5:00 PM. It is best advised to get in tune with the local way of life by waking up early, doing all sightseeing and errands in the cool morning hours, and then spending the afternoon in the relaxing shade or at the beach. In fact, the bulk of tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer, to do just that!

Summer evenings tend to be very rewarding. As strong as the sun may get on a summer afternoon, the low levels of atmospheric humidity in most areas of the country prevent the air from trapping much heat, and temperatures tend to dip to very pleasant levels in the evenings. But even during midday, high temperatures actually tend to be quite comfortable as long as the time is not spent doing a lot of walking or other physical activity. (Athens, however, can still be uncomfortably warm during summer afternoons due to the predominance of concrete in the city, an effect similar to New York City.) Coastal areas near open waters (away from tightly-closed bays and gulfs) especially on many of the islands, tend to be quite breezy, and can be quite cold at night.

While the Mediterranean climate characterizes most of the country, there are two other climate systems that are present. One is the cool Alpine climate which is found on mountainous areas of the country's interior, including many high-altitude valleys. Another system is the Continental climate found on the interiors of north-central and northeastern Greece, and gives those areas very cold winters and warm, relatively humid summers.

By car

Exploring the country by automobile can be an extremely rewarding experience, allowing you to explore the incredibly scenic and varied terrain of the country's coastlines, interior, and islands, at your convenience. However, Greece does have a relatively high road fatality rate, among the highest in the European Union. Many Greek drivers tend to drive agressively, and the nation's topographic reality poses challenges by forcing many narrow roads in mountainous regions to take several twists and turns. On the plus side, the road fatality rate has been steadily declining as a result of government campaigns, tougher policing, and lawmaking.

Roads are usually well-marked and well-maintained, and billions of euros are being poured into expanding the nation's network of multilane freeways. Because of the rapid expansion and improvement of the nation's road system, it is advised to have the most updated road map(s) possible. Many of the newer motorways are toll roads, and fees can be expensive.
Automobile rental agencies are present throughout the country, especially in major cities and in highly touristed areas. The automobiles offered are overwhelmingly manual transimission; automatics do exist, but it is advised to reserve one in advance. Gasoline/petrol prices are steep, but relatively inexpensive in comparison with many other EU countries. Some automobile rental agencies and insurance policies do not allow taking the car out of the country.

Drivers who do not hold an EU driver's certificate must carry a international driver's permit obtained in their home country. This may not be required when renting a car, but will certainly be required if involved in an accident or pulled over by the police for a traffic citation. Insurance policies may be void if the driver is a non-EU driver without an international permit.

Speed limits in Greece are:

  • 120 km/h - motorway
  • 90 km/h - open road
  • 50 km/h - town

Typical Food

The traditional fast foods are gyros (γýρος, "HEER-ohs" as in "hero sandwich", not "JIE-rohs" as in "gyroscope"), roast mutton and fixings wrapped in a pita; souvlaki (σουβλάκι, "soov-LAH-kee"), broiled meat on a skewer; Greek dips such as tzatziki (τζατζίκι), made of strained yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped vegetables (like cucumbers and dill); and skordhalia (σκορδαλιά), a garlic mashed potato dip which is usually served with deep fried salted cod.

With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece has excellent seafood. Try the grilled octopus.
Greek salad (called "country salad" locally, "HorIAtiki"), a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and onion - all sliced - plus some olives.

Also consider: moussaka; pastitsio, a variety of lasagna; bekri meze, small pieces of pork in white wine sauce; spetzofai, grilled sausage with onion and pepper; and saganaki, fried semi-hard cheese. Rack of lamb is also popular, known as Paidakia.
For dessert, ask for baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts; or galaktobouriko, a custard pie similar to mille feuille. Other pastries are also worth tasting. Another must-try is yoghurt with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you used to see at Danone stores.
For breakfast, head to local bakeries (fourno) and try fresh tiropita, cheese pie; spanakopita, spinach pie; or bougatsa, custard filled pie. All are delicious and famous among Greeks for quick breakfast eats. Each bakery does own rendition and you are never disappointed. Have this with a greek coffee to be local.


Greece produces a rich variety of local wines, including table and fortified varieties. Greek wines are not known well on the international market, as production costs are higher in Greece due to the terrain. Nonetheless, that terrain is well-suited to grape-growing, a millennia-old tradition here.

Wine is most Greeks' drink of choice, "Krasi" (inos: οίνος) and traditional spirits like ouzo, tsipouro, raki and tsikoudia (produced in Crete, similar to the Italian grappa). Retsina is a "resinated wine" with a strong, distinctive taste that can take some getting used to; the flavor comes from pine resin, which was once employed as a sealant for wine flasks and bottles. The most well-known and cheap-n-dirty is "Kourtaki Retsina".

Local producers include: 

  • Boutari (regions: Peloponnese, Crete, Goumenissa, Santorini, Naoussa)
  • Skouras (region of Peloponnese)
  • Gentilini (region of Crete)
  • region of Santorini: 
    • Volcan Wines
    • Santo Wines
    • Tsantali

Modified: 2007-02-14 10:13:40+01
Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Greece


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